Monthly Archives: August 2009

The one man I genuinely fear!

There are men who may not fear anything and some others who may fear everything under the sun. Irrespective of whom you fear and who you don’t it may be possible that the man I fear may perhaps be genuinely feared. As he may have a big contribution in how you present yourself. I say man, as I have never been to a woman who does that job.

I moved to London about a month ago after I finished my architecture degree in Newcastle upon Tyne. I was in London the whole of last summer and worked at the same architecture firm where I am set to start work tomorrow, hence I travelled with my weekly pass to almost every possible destination in central London and needless to say I am very familiar with main attractions, second hand bookshops, museums and libraries and the sort. What I am not familiar is the immediate vicinity of my neighbourhood where I now stay in London.

Last Friday was a particularly cold day, very windy, gloomy and cold and would have sat well with the late autumn days, and yet we are still to get to the end of summer. I guess the fact that I was fasting made me even more susceptible to the cold.

I used to walk for about half an hour or get a bus for about 10 minutes to go to the only salon I had ever been to in London apart from this other salon which is closer, and yet has a reputation in my mind for being a place that made a big mess of my hair. With time for Iftar (breaking fast) fast looming and the prospect of facing the very cold weather I really wanted to turn back – nevertheless I have a big day coming the following week so I thought I needed a bit of a trim.

I started walking towards that salon and then remembered there was another one closer to where I stayed and walked to that salon – on arrival I found that the salon wasn’t there anymore – asked a little boy probably Nigerian, if there used to be a salon here and he said “ya ma’an, it’s on de oder syd’ o da road innit” and pointed me towards a restaurant on the other side, when I went to the restaurant I found it to be just full of big black men ( with the odd smaller framed one) making big noises of laughter and talking in pidgin English around a good amalgam of tables decorated with African food – even if I wasn’t fasting I doubt if I would have been interested.

I looked back at the boy on the other side and he dangerously crossed the road with callous disregard to any traffic rules and took me through the restaurant, he probably was quite popular and several men kept pulling him close and squeezing his cheek, sandwiching his nose between their middle and index fingers and pulling it – I think one big burly man took him to his lap and tickled him saying kuchi kuchi koooo much to the annoyance of the little boy who wanted to show me that he was “da maan”, and I had to pause in my stride every time the boy was pulled to be part of some form of supposedly affectionate expression.

I must say that in my 5’ 8” frame I was feeling very small and insignificant, much like a foreign dignitary who may have felt very small when visiting Hitler in his larger than life scaled chancellery.

I was taken through the rear of the restaurant and down a flight of stairs – by this time I was certain this is NOT my kind of Salon! But defying the little boys’ effort and enthusiasm to show me the way and walking out and the thought of having to be the relatively smaller Asian boy walking across big black men who probably never see a non-black person walk into their domain was not very alluring, so I decided to follow the boy.

Anyway I was taken to the basement which smelt of fresh paint and spirits and there was the barber in his grandiose dexterity cutting another black man’s hair and I must say the salon chair was rather sophisticated for its environs – so were the other paraphernalia that were being used by the barber to do a very meticulous job or so I thought. And I thought, hmm I have come to the right place!
I waited patiently for that mans hair to be cut, well he had typical afro hair so it was not really “cut” but the electric clipper did the job.

It was my turn, I was called I sat on the chair and gave him instructions – the same instructions I have been giving in salons for the past 10 years or more. “Cut all round in number 1, and trim the top very short, and yet short enough that I can comb it to a side” – he got the point, well he has to – it was clear enough and he seemed to be a professional guy.

First thing he did was use the small trimmer, which is used to cut the side burns – he started cutting the ends of my fringe – this has never been done to me before and I asked him what he was doing and he said just cutting that part and assured me that I will have it “just the way you want”.

That done he cut all round in number one, and then he turned the chair and I couldn’t face the mirror anymore – and this guy as opposed to other barbers who keep the chair static and keep moving around to reach different positions of the head was staying static! and turning the chair all round for him to cut all sides of my hair! I had to wait for a couple of minutes to complete my 360° turn to see my hair!

Having done my sides he changed the size of the comb on the trimmer to trim the top of my head! And I coolly told him, “err no I want you to use the scissors” , and then he replied equally coolly “I don’t use scissors” but don’t worry I’ll have it cut “just the way you want”, a phrase which by now I was bombarded with every time I objected to something!

He doesn’t use scissors! Now why didn’t I observe that before!! And now he tells me!

Anyway he started trimming, and by now I was about 75° from the mirror so I couldn’t really see what he was doing! And when I made my next complete revolution – lo and behold a good chunk of my hair was taken off and I looked no different to the big fat black guy guy whose hair was cut before mine! Except I was smaller made and had a fairer complexion! I immediately made a bodily expression from which he knew I was very annoyed! I couldn’t do a follow up of my expressions of objection because there were a lot of other black men with whom he was constantly conversing in his pidgin English and my objection earlier came out rather loud and I was faced with objecting looks wondering who this pariah was! So I had to immediately change course and not carry on with the “aiya part” I may have put if I was at home.

Well what was cut can’t be taken back and I tried to console myself saying that it wasn’t bad after all when deep within I knew that I was now looking like a smaller made south Asian version of Dizzee Rascal!

I have always been apprehensive of barbers, I used to be aggressive when they made a mistake, but then that has only made the barber play around with my hair in a way I really don’t like. And then I have been really nice, like fake smiles and exchanging very artificial cosmetic pleasantries to give the guy an impression that I am a nice guy and so please do a good job! Somehow I have been very unlucky with barbers and I do a big mistake of having a hair cut just before a big day and end up being better off had I not cut my hair. I start work on Tuesday and I must confess I really despise the fact that I will be going in there with a hair cut very unlike the one I would usually have!

Yes I do fear barbers for the amount of social embarassment the tend to put me through, and historically I have never been that very well treated in salons – hair wise of course!


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Inside the head of a thirteen year old

My sister in this case – being the fourth in the clan following two boisterous boys and a relatively not so boisterous girl, my sister is quite a pickle. She seems to have picked up familiar family traits like sometimes being visible in the dark only when she smiles and exposes her white teeth which illuminate sharply in contrast to her dark skin. This is neither a compliment nor an insult – just bare reality – well slightly exaggerated perhaps.

Being the latest addition to the family she has enjoyed much more privileges than I had when I was her age, at thirteen I remember kneeling beside my dad marvelling at the speed in which emails were pouring in – and we had a computer which was way before the Pentium series had started (although it was advance compared to the not so many computers that were around at that time) – and my sister is strongly contemplating blogging! Yes I am getting old indeed!

Being the last she picks up things faster than we used to pick up info – not necessarily that she has a Intel centrino quad inside her head but probably the relaive abundance of information swirling around the others in the family- hence the ease of access to it.

There have been times when she gets her wires crossed. Like once when we had a discussion (more like a heated debate) amongst extended family circles about types of schools, i.e. private schools, government schools, semi – government schools and International schools, and none of us would have even noticed my then 2-3+ year old sister’s presence in the crowd. Later in the evening (must have been a very hot one) , she came walking around almost to be scolded by someone saying “why are you walking around with your private parts exposed”, to which she replied with all ignorant childhood panditha innocence “no no these aren’t private! These are semi government”!

I doubt if The Whackster will remember this, but I remember him calling me once at a time when I happened to be asleep when we were doing our A Levels, my sister then 7 years old had answered and said I was asleep – on being asked by whack when I will wake up, apparently her response then was “how do I know men! Heh.

Anyway, what prompted this post was a poem of hers which I accidently came across on her facebook profile (at her age I think I was reading the mirror magazine those days to see if I can make a pen pal!!). I am reproducing her poem below in full, without her permission of course! (yeah like I am going to ask her to use her poem).


Anger piles up and engulfs your brain,
Makes you blind to see beyond your pain,
You see no good while your tears creep in,
You fail to see the good thats within.

But as you calm down and your brain clears,
You finally see beyond the film of tears,
The cause of your anger was not really that bad,
What then seemed enormous is now just a tad.

So when you are angry you seem like a fizzy can of drinks,
Thats waiting to sprout out its patience at the brink,
But as time goes by and your anger calms,
And the realities you see are many healing balms.

Perhaps could do with a tweak or two, but interesting to note what runs in the head of a thirteen year old.

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Trinco from a moving vehicle..

Taken from a moving vehicle.


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Sculptural Face

At a friends house in Sri Lanka

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Gaining Momentum

Tram in Berlin.


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Blood, a Woman and Media space

I write this with a certain level of emotion, helplessness and frustration. Emotion because the free flow in my thoughts were disturbed by a video I watched, helplessness because I was not given a role in the drama that the video portrayed – for somewhere inside me a desperate voice screams to do something!, frustrated that I can’t seem to do enough quench albeit momentarily that voice inside me.
The video was about …

“Marwa Ali El-Sherbini , an Egyptian pharmacist and handball player, she was killed in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany, by a man against whom she had testified for previous xenophobic insults against her. Because Marwa was wearing a headscarf he had called her an “Islamist”, a “terrorist” and a “bitch”.

In August 2008 Alex W. (a German of Russian origin, not identified by full name in line with common practice of German authorities and media concerning criminal suspects) shouted abuse at Marwa in a Dresden playground, calling her an “Islamist”, a “terrorist” and a “bitch” in a dispute about her 3-year old son, who was apparently playing on a swing that his niece wanted to use. El-Sherbini was wearing an Islamic headscarf.

Marwa brought charges against him for insulting behaviour and he was fined 780 € by the Amtsgericht in Dresden. The Public Prosecutor filed an appeal to achieve a higher penalty because of the openly xenophobic character of the incident, since Alex W. stated “You don’t have the right to live here” at the time of the first trial.

The appeal hearing started in the late morning of July 1, 2009. Eight persons were present in the courtroom: a panel of one professional and two lay judges, the prosecutor, Alex W. as the defendant, his defence counsel, Marwa El-Sherbini as witness for the prosecution, and her husband and son as members of the public.

After Marwa El-Sherbini testified, 28-year-old Alex W. leapt across the courtroom and attacked her in front of her husband and son. Alex W. stabbed Marwa 18 times, killing her. Some witnesses allege that he shouted “You don′t deserve to live” as he attacked her. “

Her husband reportedly had jumped to her aid only to be shot by courtroom police and is now in a very critical condition.

The question arises, why were the authorities so lackadaisical that Alex was able to get into the courtroom with a knife?

The Hijab has been at the centre of many a story and I will not try to dwell on a topic already clichéd to a level of nausea to the lay-reader so to speak. But the level of media space that is allocated to issues which relate to an icon which reflects Islam is appalling.

I checked the Websites of many media organisations and I found nothing related to this incident, if they did it was a casual headline making a lethargic telling-just-to-tell-it report of the incident. I typed Marwa El Sherbini in the UK Times’ website and nothing comes up whatsoever!

When Gillian Gibbons was supposedly accused of charges of blasphemy in Sudan her story was in the media for days, and there wasn’t even any blood involved!

Leave aside the “Muslim” factor; the ashamedly hypocritical almost diabolic (yeah strong word) silence of the media (western in particular), human rights organisations and that of the ever vociferous feminist groups in the wake of such incidents is enough to trigger waves of emotions in anyone with a just sense of mind.

And I don’t need to be a male chauvinist to wonder where global feminist groups are when one of their sisters is subject to such treatment!

If the West is attempting to do its best to mitigate radical Islam by all audacious or even subtle means that it employs, I am rather disturbed by this laughable myopia it exhibits in letting such incidents take place. Take an everyday Muslim, who innocently does what his religion asks him to do and harms no one in the process – relate to him (without exaggeration) the whole story of Marwa El Sherbini and – you may create a “radical” Muslim.

I may not get radicalised by what I saw and never will be, simply because I have lived in western society and have seen the levels of acceptance and tolerance an everyday westerner shows towards a Muslim practicing his/her routines and I know that radicalism in any ideology violent or non violent is not going to achieve anything, but such inaction by authorities will only amplify the calls of some Muslims who themselves were radicalised in the first place by being subject to injustice or by their human emotions being disturbed by the injustice they saw meted out to another human being who happened to be another Muslim.

This post is dedicated to Marwa El Sherbini who resorted to ethical means in fighting her case only to be let down by a legal system in which she had put her trust in.

I am not a fan of Sami Yusuf (I really don’t like his songs, ok I hate his songs), but I found the following rather befitting.

What goes through your mind?
As you sit there looking at me
Well I can tell from your looks
That you think I’m so oppressed
But I don’t need for you to liberate me

My head is not bare
And you can’t see my covered hair
So you sit there and you stare
And you judge me with your glare
You’re sure I’m in despair
But are you not aware
Under this scarf that I wear
I have feelings, and I do care

So don’t you see?
That I’m truly free
this piece of scarf on me
I wear so proudly
to preserve my dignity…

My modesty
my integrity
so don’t judge me
Open your eyes and see…
Why can’t you just accept me? She says
why can’t I just be me? She says
Time and time again
you speak of democracy

yet you rob me of my liberty
All I want is equality
Why can’t you just let me be free?

For you I sing this song
My sister, may you always be strong
From you I’ve learnt so much
How you suffer so much
Yet you forgive those who laugh at you
You walk with no fear
Through the insults you hear
Your wish so sincere
That they’d understand you
But before you walk away
This time you turn and say:

But don’t you see?
That I’m truly free
This piece of scarf on me
I wear so proudly
To preserve my dignity
My modesty
My integrity
So let me be
She says with a smile
I’m the one who’s free.



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